Facebook Watch’s “Strangers” Is One of the Funniest, Smartest Queer TV Shows of 2017

Last Friday night, as ABC’s Once Upon a Time was getting ready to roll out its new LGBT character — who was ushered in with such promises as “they exist in the world” and “we are planning to do it” — I made the bold decision to skip it and try Facebook’s new streaming TV service, specifically the Mia Lidofsky comedy Strangers. And boi, am I glad I did! I devoured all seven episodes in one sitting and enjoyed more legitimate queerness in that short time than most broadcast TV networks manage to eek out across all their shows in a whole year. It’s not just the quantity of queerness, though; it’s the quality. Of the writing, yes: Strangers feels so relatable. But also the quality of the series as a whole. The acting, directing, editing, heck even the color correction. It’s like a hazy days fever dream of a future where it doesn’t take seven seasons to get a vague throwaway line confirming a fictional character’s gayness.

Wanna make some gay brownies, buddy?

Okay, it does start out with a trope. Isobel (Zoë Chao) finds herself newly single and questioning her sexuality after cheating on her boyfriend with a woman. Everything after that, though, is fresh and wonderful. To make up the rent she loses in the breakup, Isobel starts taking in tenants from an Airbnb-esque website. Each episode brings a new guest that forces Isobel to relate to the world in an uncomfortable way. There’s a couple on their honeymoon, a rich white guy working on a screenplay, a therapist, a queer pastor, and Jemima Kirke who plays Jessa on Girls playing basically Jessa from Girls. Helping Isobel navigate her newly single, newly queer, newly rented-out life is her best friend Cam (Meredith Hagner), and they’re going to give you hardcore Alice and Shane vibes (but upgraded).

Which brings me to the neat surprise that Isobel’s therapist tenant is played with bright, loving queerness by Leisha Hailey. Isobel meets a girl and it’s so good. But also complicated. She meets a guy and he’s actually pretty great. But that’s complicated too. And then there’s the strangling anxiety of having a fight with her lifelong friend. Isobel talks through it all with Dr. Pieszecki. It’s actually a pretty wonderful juxtaposition, seeing The L Word‘s resident bisexual character who participated in some of the most bi-loathing conversations in that show’s bizarro bi-hostile history sitting across from a bisexual character who is also lovable but consistently and conscientiously written. From premium cable to streaming on a social media platform. What a weird time to be alive!

Tegan and Sara music video or TV show?

The main love story in Strangers will get you in your guts. It’s sweet and real and sexy and sad and hopeful and man we have all been there. (Or we all will be.) On both sides of it. I still haven’t adapted to this brave new TV world where women crawl all over each other nakedly with the lights on, just casually kissing multiple times every episode right on their mouths. The cavern is getting wider every day between what ABC and CBS and NBC are willing to be needled into showing and what streaming platforms are just doing because it’s life and guess what gay people like smooching too.

Oh lamb of God, I come. I come.

My favorite part of Strangers, though, is that it’s just really, really funny. Take My Wife, One Mississippi, One Day at a Time, and Master of None have rendered the U-Haul joke obsolete by proving there’s a way to let queer people in on the laughs without perpetually using the same stale punchlines. Strangers is part of that new breed of comedy. The queer pastor who stays with Isobel believes in post-gender Christianity and the theology she espouses over dinner with her congregation is one of the best and most hilarious things I have ever witnessed. Lidofsky makes jokes for us, but she also gently pokes fun of us — because she’s one of us.

Lidofsky told Indiewire, “I’m a gay woman, and I wanted to create a story that represented my community and my understanding of sexuality, identity, love and human connection. I wanted to create a show that opened up the dialogue around sexuality in what I hope is an honest and genuine way.”

She absolutely succeeded.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1207 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Update: It’s wayyy past my bedtime, but I finished the first season AND ENJOYED IT SO VERY MUCH. The characters, the cast, the writing, the colours, the vibe, the sets, the soundtrack, the humour, the friendship between two queer women, the fact that Isobel identifies as bi and makes a point of saying so… All of it is truly awesome.

    I think it’s interesting that in the series, the only people who make Isobel feel that she has to defend her bisexuality/fluidity, are gay women. Discrimination and erasure within the LGBTQIA+ community are absolutely ridiculous to me, so the more they get addressed, the better. In fact, that is probably the only criticism I have of this show; while I understand that the protagonist is not someone who will naturally call another person out on their disrespectful behaviour, I would have liked for the creators to have found a way to express more clearly that Cam and Tinder Date’s biphobia are not. OK.

    Other than that, though, Strangers is most definitely the best piece of queer media I’ve watched in a while.
    Thank you, Heather, for writing about it. I would probably have never known about the show if it hadn’t been for this article.

    May our screens showing women crawling all over each other nakedly with the lights on be the most normal thing in the world one day. (Though something tells me I’ll never get used to it. In a good way.)

  2. Thank you for this! I watched all of the episodes in one sitting and continue to re-watch with great satisfaction. Really love so many aspects of this series, including the fact that the main character is Asian/mixed race.

  3. This was charming! Tho damn, all the biphobia. Also, can folks who live in LA weigh in about how much it’s actually kinda like that? I feel like there’s a whole queer zeitgeist happening in LA right now but everybody is always finding themselves and it’s exhausting.

    • To clarify I feel exhausted watching people or listening to people in podcasts all finding themselves all the time and not to say I have an unexamined life, but idk if there’s this thing in the water in LA where people are perpetually having a quarter life crisis or something, except they’re turning 30, and they’re like wait I thought I would have kids or something maybe I’ll start a seed library or become a circus performer or just get a weird haircut, idk. Is it actually like that or is that just the story we are all telling each other?

      Also I like that the final note of this series is about friendship, I’m into that.

  4. THIS WAS SO GOOD. i also just binge watched it all! thank you for writing about this heather, i 100% had no idea that facebook had a streaming service. what a world, what a world.

    also i’m in love with cam AND haley, which was kinda surprising to me!

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